Bathroom Lighting Tips
The master bathroom should be more than a lackluster place where you practice your personal hygiene. Instead, it should be a luxurious sanctuary where you can prepare for (or retire from) a busy day to focus on yourself. Unfortunately, many bathrooms are less than enticing spaces—possibly because they are equipped with inadequate lighting that lacks the quality and layers it needs to provide a comfortable ambience. So what can you do to create the perfect bathroom lighting?
First, try swapping out your lights for ones that produce a more desirable light quality. As the most visible aspect of your lights, color temperature is the most important spec to look at. Measured in degrees Kelvin, color temperature describes how warm (yellow) or cool (white/blue) a light is. Most lights offer between 2700K and 6000K—the lower the color temperature, the warmer the light; the higher the color temperature, the cooler the light.
To create a bright, energizing atmosphere in your bathroom, which you may prefer if you're a morning groomer, we recommend using cool white lights in a color temperature above 4000K. But for a warmer, cozier feel which night groomers may prefer, we recommend warm white lights in a color temperature at or below 3500K. Some people even like to take advantage of windows that let in bright, natural sunshine as well as dimmers that lower light levels to create a balance of both refreshment and relaxation in their room. The color scheme of your bathroom can also be also a signficant factor in deciding what color temperature you should use.
If you’re planning to use energy-efficient fluorescent or LED lights in your bathroom, CRI (color-rendering index) is another important spec to consider. CRI measures the ability of a light to accurately render colors on a scale from 0-100. CRI is only listed on LED and CFL lighting fact labels because all incandescent lights have a CRI of 100. A good CRI is essential for tasks like doing your makeup or making sure you’re not mixing up black with navy blue, for instance. While any value above 80 is considered decent, the higher the CRI, the more vibrant colors will look. For best results, we recommend a CRI above 90.
Layers of Light
As we’ve said before, layering your lights is the key to a comfortable and well-balanced lighting scheme. The three layers of lighting design are ambient, task, and accent lighting. Ambient lighting is general overhead lighting, task lighting is directional illumination on surfaces where you perform tasks, and accent lighting is decorative lighting that highlights the artistic elements of a room. These are some fixtures commonly used for each layer.
Ambient: Recessed lights and close to ceiling lights are favorites for creating a base layer of ambient light. More ornate fixtures, such as chandeliers, are also becoming increasingly popular in large bathrooms.
Task: We recommend vanity lights, which illuminate your face as you style your hair or perform your makeup regimen, and shower lights. To eliminate shadows under the chin, eyes, and cheeks, vanity fixtures (such as wall sconces) should be mounted just a few inches to the left and the right of the mirror and as close to the height of your face as possible. Although side lighting is best for minimizing shadows, a horizontal bar above the mirror with multiple lights should be long enough to shine light evenly over your face. Shower lights need to be UL-rated for use in wet conditions, as we explained in an earlier post.
Accent: A few ways you can incorporate accent lighting in your bathroom include backlighting behind mirrors, shining light from below a beautiful glass sink, or angling downlights toward intricate tilework on your walls. To accomplish these feats, we recommend using LED tape light, rope light or recessed eyeball lights, respectively. Check out our post on accent lighting techniques for other ideas!
Since the bathroom is a moisture-laden environment, it is important to be mindful of applicable electrical codes before installing any new lights. With the following guidelines in mind, you’ll ensure your safety and avoid sparking any issues.
- Choose fixtures that are UL-listed for wet or damp locations. The fixtures should be water-tight to keep out splashes of water or condensation.
- If installing a fancy ceiling fixture above your bathtub, the bottom of the fixture must be at least 8 feet above the highest point on the tub’s edge or 3 feet beyond it.
- Make sure that the wiring in the bathroom is protected with a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), which will cut the current if it senses unsafe conditions.
- If you plan on messing with your home’s electrical wiring at all, always consult an electrician beforehand. Consider using candles or candle sconces if you can’t work new fixtures into your current wiring!
Hopefully, you now feel equipped with the knowledge you need to improve your bathroom lighting. Remember to select lights in the proper light quality, to choose fixtures that satisfy each layer of lighting, and to consult electrical codes before buying or installing new fixtures. If you have any questions or comments about the article, be sure to let us know and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram! We’d love to hear from you.